Being Gramma

My Grammie meant the world to me!  I didn't live close, in fact years went by between visits, but I always knew that she loved me.  And I never doubted that I if I needed her she would find a way to be there for me.  We exchanged letters, way back before email thank goodness, and even though she has been gone for far too long, those letters when I am brave enough to read them still give me strength and wrap me in her love.  Each one would start "My Beautiful Belynda Sue"... I am fairly sure as a young child I really thought that was my name.

The bond between us was so strong and time and distance didn't change it. It probably wasn't fair to anyone else and I took a lot of heat after each visit, because I was always the one that sat by Grammie at dinner and I was "the favorite".  That still makes me laugh, because I wasn't the favorite. Grammie loved all her grand kids, some of us were considered "the favorites", but mostly it was because of time, circumstances or the order of our birth.  I was the oldest grandchild on both sides and because my Dad was military and deployed Mom and I lived with Grammie and Papa.  Of course we were close!  Different sisters and different cousins at different times all held that coveted spot. 

Now my memories of my Grammie are snap shots, sitting at the dinner table beside her in the house on Conrad Road (that will always be my home), watching Lawrence Welk with her and Papa, Grammie hanging sheets and towels on the line to dry.  Strawberry Shortcake for dinner after Papa had picked beautiful strawberries from the garden, Mom and Dad would never have served us that for dinner!  Her nursing my sister Margie back to health when she got so sick while we visited, I remember all those blankets and the gentleness as she washed her little face with the cool towel trying to break her fever.  Flying home for Christmas in 1982, the first time she got to meet my now ex-husband, a box of Stefanelli's chocolate bunnies and crosses every year for Easter, no matter where we were in the world.  Wonder if she ever knew they rarely resembled bunnies when they arrived, but they were always treasured and enjoyed.

Her sitting on the sofa and my not seeing her as I stormed into the house too furious that I had just failed my drivers test because the car over heated, on top of the fact that Dad had been late picking me up.  I don't remember what I said as I came in, something like it sucked... but I sure was brought up short by that petite little white haired woman saying "Belynda SUE" you sure could hear that I had let her down.  I smile now, remembering that day, when she flew all the way to Germany to be there as a surprise for my graduation from High School.  Of course the car over heated and they were late, they had just driven two hours both ways in a hurry to surprise me, before I got home from school and my test. 

My last visit with her, a hurried trip to Erie, with my Mom, my daughter and my young son, before I flew off yet again to Germany.  I had to see her, I had to show her my kids.  She had to know them, had to meet my little man.  That trip brings tears to my eyes, although it was amazing! She didn't get around real good by then, but my Aunt and her family sure were taking great care of her, and she insisted I sleep on the floor in her room, I can't remember if I did, sadly that time period is when I was recovering from Lyme and a lot of pieces are hazy.  But I remember the laughter, taking her riding in my mini van all day (she loved that she could get in and out of it easily) I took her to both cemeteries to lay flowers at the graves of both Grampa Litz and Grampa Henniese.  We went to visit Grampa Litz's brother, and had lunch at Wendy's - at the time it was her favorite place to eat we had baked potatoes and frosty's - still my favorite thing there and I feel her sitting with me at the table each time I have it.
Grammie, Uncle Dave and Aunt Margie

I remember having most of the family gathered at Aunt G's house, the laughter that filled the air, sitting there with loved ones that are now gone.  Aunt Margie and Uncle Dave came up as usual, they always found the time to come when we were in town and my little guy was completely nuts about my cousin Penny, talked about her for most of the trip to Germany. 

My eyes are misty now, that trip was far too short, and as I got the warmest hug in the world before leaving, wrapped in My Grammie's arms she thanked me for being there, for coming to see her, and then she said the word's I cherished and dreaded at the same time "I love you my Beautiful Belynda, and I want you to know that, because this is the last time I will see you."  Cold fingers ran up my spine, not too many years before my Papa had said the same thing to me before another return trip to Germany, he had never met my son, but I know they would have been great pals.  I didn't want to hear it or believe it as I drove away crying.

Fast forward a couple of years, lots of cards letters and pictures later, when I got the call from my Mom, Grammie was in the hospital and it didn't look good.  From Germany, curled up on my dining room floor by the phone I called the hospital, the sweet woman on the end of the line told me that Grammie was fading fast, that she couldn't talk to me, but she was kind enough to hold the phone to her ear for me.  I got the chance to tell her that I loved her and I was coming home, that I would be there as fast as I could, but I knew she was in a hurry to go home and just to always remember how much I loved her. It still warms my heart to know that I could tell her that.

I flew out on the next plane, unfortunately it was the next morning.  Got stuck in Detroit, but finally made it late the next night.  My first words were "did I make it in time", Momma without realizing it said "no, she died a few hours ago".  Never in my life have I felt so much pain.  Being from a military family, I had never been around death or dying.  People and things always died when I was far away, I came back in time to lay a wreath or flowers at a headstone.  My dear precious Grammie was the first time I was forced to deal with death head on. It was the most horrid thing I had ever experienced, here I was in my 30's at my first funeral ever, and it was my heart, My Grammie.

Fast forward a few more years, and my own precious grand baby is being born. Right then and there I promised her as I held her tight in my arms to always be there for her.  To always create those memories for her that she will hold warm and gentle in her heart years from now when I go home for the final time.  I promised to always love her and to be her safe harbor. 

My Grand daughter and I are very close.  She lights up my world, she makes me laugh and smile.  She learned my phone number before she ever knew her own. At three she would call me, telling me she needed to come visit.  She is so much like her mommy was with her Gramma, my mom, it's a relationship that can't really be put into words, and only another Gramma can truly understand that bond. 

Time will probably move her away from me, she's already moved once and it took her seven miles away, and it cut deeply into our time together.  She will grow up, she won't always think Gramma is the greatest, her friends will eventually be more important than her Gramma, but nothing will ever cut into that bond. For now, I will cherish her, spoil her and enjoy her loving her completely!  Those are things she is always guaranteed.

Being Gramma is the greatest job you have never applied for!  And I want to be everything she needs, I want her to cherish my memory when that time comes, after all, I come from a long line of really amazing Gramma's!

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